November 20, 2014

President Obama gave a historical speech last night reminding American people about the priorities of the American nation. My favorite quote from his speech was: “We need reasoned, thoughtful, compassionate debate that focuses on our hopes, not our fears” President Obama reminded us of the qualities our nation thrive on; retaining the bright and the talented immigrants and allowing people to get right with the law. President Obama indicated one more time that he still would like for Congress to come forward with a comprehensive reform.

On November 20, 2014, the President announced a series of executive actions on immigration, which will effect roughly 5 million individuals in the U.S.

1. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program:

Expand the population eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to individuals who came to this country before turning 16 years old, and entered the U.S. before January 1, 2010, regardless of how old they are today. (removes prior age limits and expands the prior requirement of June 15, 2007.) Extend the period of DACA and work authorization from two years to three years.

This will take effect in approximately 90 days.

2. Deferred action for parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (DAP) program:

Allow parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents of any age who have been in the country since January 1, 2010, to request deferred action and employment authorization for three years, provided they pass required background checks, pay back taxes and fines.

Unfortunately, parents of DACA recipients are not eligible. Must be parents of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident born on or before November 20, 2014; and are not an enforcement priority for removal from the United States. USCIS will consider each request for Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAP) on a case-by-case basis.

This will take effect in approximately 180 days.

3. Provisional waivers of unlawful presence:

Expand the use of provisional waivers of unlawful presence to include the spouses and sons and daughters of lawful permanent residents and the sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, who have resided unlawfully in the United States for at least 180 days. (Currently, only spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens are allowed to apply to obtain a provisional waiver if a visa is available.)

This will take effect after new guidance and regulations are issued.

4. Modernize, improve and clarify immigrant and nonimmigrant programs to grow our economy and create jobs:

This initiative concerns U.S. businesses, foreign investors, researchers, inventors and skilled foreign workers, and include the following;

The ability of individuals with an approved employment-based immigrant petition who are caught in the quota backlogs to file for adjustment of status will be advanced to permit them to obtain the benefits of a pending adjustment, which is expected to impact about 410,000 people; Work with the Department of State to modify the Visa Bulletin system; provide clarity on adjustment portability; clarify the standard by which a national interest waiver may be granted to foreign inventors, researchers and founders of start-up enterprises; authorize parole to eligible inventors, researchers and founders of start-up enterprises who may not yet qualify for a national interest waiver; finalize a rule to provide work authorization to the spouses of certain H-1B visa holders who are on the path to lawful permanent resident status; Work with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to develop regulations for notice and comment to expand and extend the use of optional practical training (OPT) for foreign students, consistent with existing law; allow individuals with a pending green card application to travel abroad with advance travel permission (“parole”); provide clear, consolidated guidance on the meaning of “specialized knowledge” to bring greater clarity and integrity to the L-1B program improve consistency in adjudications, and enhance companies’ confidence in the program.

These changes will take effect after new guidance and regulations are issued.

5. Promote the naturalization process:

Promoting citizenship education and public awareness for lawful permanent residents (green card holders) and providing an option for naturalization applicants to use credit cards to pay the application fee and assess partial fee waivers for eligible applicants.

This will take effect after new guidance and regulations are issued.

Important notes: Anyone who is considering for applying for benefits must read the following important notes.

  • Beware of scams: These initiatives have not yet been implemented, and USCIS is not accepting any requests or applications at this time. Beware of anyone who offers to help you submit an application or a request for any of these actions before they are available. You could become a victim of an immigration scam. Make sure to consult with a licensed immigration attorney to evaluate your case.
  • Gather your documents: If you believe you may be eligible for one of the initiatives listed above, you can prepare by gathering documents that establish your:
    • Identity;
    • Relationship to a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident; and
    • Continuous residence in the United States over the last five years or more.
  • Processing times: USCIS aims to complete all applications received by the end of 2015 before the end of 2016. USCIS will adjust its staffing to sufficiently address the new workload. Any hiring will be funded through application fees rather than appropriated funds. USCIS will work hard to avoid any delays in other applications because of the new workload.
  • Background checks: USCIS will conduct thorough background checks, including but not limited to a 10-print fingerprint, primary name, and alias name checks against databases maintained by DHS and other federal government agencies. These checks are designed to identify individuals who may pose a national security or public safety threat, have a criminal background, may have perpetrated fraud, or who may be otherwise ineligible to request deferred action. No individual will be granted relief without passing these background checks.
  • USCIS Checks Against Fraud: USCIS will conduct an individual review of each case. USCIS officers are trained to identify indicators of fraud, including fraudulent documents. As with other immigration requests, all applicants will be warned that knowingly misrepresenting or failing to disclose facts will subject them to criminal prosecution and possible removal from the United States. Individuals who knowingly make a misrepresentation, or knowingly fail to disclose facts, in an effort to obtain deferred action or work authorization through this process will not receive favorable consideration for deferred action. In addition, USCIS will apply its current policy governing the referral of individual cases to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the issuance of Notices to Appear before an immigration judge. If the background check or other information uncovered during the review of a request for deferred action indicates that an individual’s presence in the United States threatens public safety or national security, USCIS will deny the request and refer the matter for criminal investigation and possible removal by ICE, consistent with existing processes.
  • Information provided is protected from disclosure:  Information provided in DACA or DAP requests are protected from disclosure to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for the purpose of immigration enforcement proceedings unless you meet the criteria for the issuance of a Notice to Appear or a referral to ICE under the criteria set forth in USCIS’ Notice to Appear guidance. Individuals who are granted deferred action will not be referred to ICE. The information may be shared, however, with national security and law enforcement agencies, including ICE and CBP, for purposes other than removal, including; to identify or prevent fraudulent claims; for national security purposes; for the investigation or prosecution of a criminal offense. This policy covers family members and guardians, in addition to you. 

Remzi G. Kulen